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Amy Butcher Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 6.04.15

“Above all else, I consider writing to be an active art of questioning, and so any sense of ‘stuckness’ I might experience generally means I haven’t yet identified the heart of what I’m exploring. Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates speak, and he encouraged a whole room full of people to push harder on the conclusions they’ve drawn, no matter how careful their considerations. Ask why, he implored: why he did that, why she said that, why a whole group of people feels or acts or thinks that way. Trace causation one level further. He was speaking specifically to the Baltimore riots, but speaking, as well, to process, to intent, to the larger goals we lay out for ourselves when we go about our work. When I feel stuck, I invigorate that sense of inquiry through immersion into a world that is markedly not my own—I navigate to the Feynman Series’ ‘Beauty’ episode. Just three minutes long, and yet this clip—pulled from Richard Feynman’s ‘Doubt and Ask’ lecture—renews this sense of the universe’s bigness, of my own woeful smallness, of the importance of doubting, of asking. ‘I can live,’ he states beautifully, ‘with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and there are many things I don’t know anything about.’ That reminder, to me, necessitates frequency.”
—Amy Butcher, author of Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder (Blue Rider Press, 2015)

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